Dear TurboTax: DIAF. Thanks

I got a letter from the IRS today, saying that they think I made an error in my taxes. It says I claimed a dependent that I can’t claim.

All I can think of is, “What? I didn’t claim a dependent?”

So I look at my actual TurboTax-created tax form, and what do I see? A dependent claimed, right where they said it would be.

So I log into TurboTax… you know, to see how that got there? And guess what?

Seriously, WTF? How does the program even make a mistake like that? It’s one of those things so obvious, I wouldn’t have even thought to review it before the form got sent out. (Yeah, I know, so obvious that I should have seen it before the form got sent out…)

sigh… Seriously, I’ve had it. After a bad experience with an accountant doing them, and now this, I’m doing my taxes myself, by hand, from now on.

shaking my head

mostly just pissed that I owe a surprise $1k I didn’t think that I did

Maybe TurboTax knows something you don’t about some illegitimate child you have out there, hmmmmmm???

Doesn’t Turbotax guarantee against errors?

Yes, they’ll pay any interest and fees based on their errors. Whee, that’s a whole $1.70. Thanks, Intuit… not.

Illegitimate? Dude’s got at least one “for real” kid. Surprised he didn’t claim him on his taxes.

You been pimped daddio. I don’t understand how it happened either (long time Turbotax user, and I’m a tax accountant and it’s beyond me how this could happen).

As far as your Plan B goes (doing your returns by hand in the future, not using Turbotax), you are going to find, I think, that you do need to use some sort of software since you can’t file on paper any longer. As much as Turbotax harshed your mellow here, you might come around next year and use them again and do a closer review of the output before filing. I admit, I gave my own return a high level review before filing this year, and I’m trained to be able to spot obvious errors through having done this sort of work for the last quarter of a century, so I understand how this happened to you and that you ought to be able to rely on Turbotax not to make such a basic error (or have a flaw in their software). But in fact, the entire accounting industry (including tax work) is built on the back of a “review” concept (i.e. what typically happens is a junior person prepares a return which is reviewed by a more senior person) and it is a beautiful concept indeed which catches many, many errors (self review does too).

As far as your Plan B goes (doing your returns by hand in the future, not using Turbotax), you are going to find, I think, that you do need to use some sort of software since you can’t file on paper any longer.

Not sure if I am reading this correctly, but basically nobody is required to file electronically. There are exceptions that certain organizations of certain sizes are, but any random person can still file on paper and will probably always be able to do so.

You can also do your return by hand, and use the fillable forms. Basically, you create the forms and file them without the assistance of software, but you get the 2-3 week processing rather than the 6-8.

Yep, and in that respect, it’s at least partially my fault –*and ultimately my own responsibility.

That said, when TurboTax (web version) did its “error checking” it kept telling me I had to fill out a form on the dependent. I couldn’t get the form to go away, and I looked for a good hour to try and find how to manually edit the forms. Couldn’t figure out how. This was long a feature of the stand-alone app and older web versions; I couldn’t find where to go for the life of me for the 2010 edition. That, even more than the “How in the hell can your data path be so mixed up as to allow this to happen?”-ness of it, bothers me.


You know, if TurboTax does actually die in a fire you’re going to feel just rotten.

Their software dev staff actually has my sympathy, because any code base where a bug like this could occur – much less make it into production – has got to be a goddamned nightmare to maintain and debug.

My confusion lies in the fact that I work for one of the big (remaining) accounting firms and there is a practitioner e-filing mandate (but it applies to practitioners which file a certain # of returns, not at the individual taxpayer level). So Rimbo, if you want to prepare your forms manually, it appears you can still do so. Personally, I would think you might be as likely to make a mistake this way as you would be relying on software which then somehow gets you goofed up.

I’m not 100% sure this is totally accurate (I’d rather have found it on the IRS website), but this is what the google fu came up with quickly:

Federal Practitioner E-File Mandate for Individual Federal Returns

July 8, 2010, 12:00 pm
Congress authorized the IRS to impose an electronic filing mandate on tax return preparers who prepare individual federal returns beginning with the 2011 filing season. The legislation stated that any preparer who prepared over 10 returns is required to file all of the returns they prepare electronically beginning on January 1, 2011.

This new requirement will be phased in over two years as follows:
[li]Filing season 2011 – Preparers who anticipate preparing 100 or more federal individual returns are required to file those returns electronically.[/li][/ul]

And even then, there’s quite a few situations where you can’t file electronically, even if you wanted to, because IRS systems aren’t set up to properly handle any number of tax situations. (Any form not on on this list, or if you need to file more than the number listed.) The vast majority of taxpayers won’t encounter a situation where they can’t e-file; as a practitioner I encounter it fairly regularly though. One I run into a fair bit, being a major university town, is the 1040NR (non-resident alien).

Nixxter, thanks for the truly informative posts. That’s an interesting new rule. I think I like it, but it wouldn’t apply to me… not yet. :)

Yeah, I’m aware that I might make a mistake doing them by hand, but then at least I have no one to blame but myself.

I was required to do a paper filing this year because I was claiming one of the homebuyer tax credits that required additional documentation. It was barbaric.

I had a bad TurboTax experience this year too… it told me I owed nearly $1,000 more in PA taxes than I did, because it thought the “income taxed in another state” line should be zero even though I had already entered that in the section for Delaware. So if I hadn’t thought to myself “no, that can’t be right” and gone through fighting the interface to manually figure out where the software had gone wrong, it would have just cost me a grand. Awesome.

The Intuit employee on their message boards finally gave me an “answer” that was “helpful:” Call TTX tech support during regular business hours, and have them help me install the standalone client.


Can you do Schedule K, 1099-MISC and -Bs on the web? I thought the web version was just for W-2s.

Oh yeah. First Time Home Buyer Credit. Another thing that can’t e-file. Also substitute W2s if you had a really lazy/no longer locatable employer. The home buyer credit is such a pain…

Supposedly you can do K1’s, which surprises me:

So I see no reason the various 1099s can’t be entered.